Sunday, January 05, 2020

Calavera Lake Hike (Local Extinct Volcano)

I have been wanting to hike the trails of Calavera Lake for a while now. Despite the fact that I can see the backside of the extinct volcano from my office window, this is the first time we have actually visited this preserve in Carlsbad, CA. Lake Calavera was created in 1940 to store drinking water for the local community. They built the dam from rock and gravel quarried from the small Mount Calavera. The dam is 67 feet high and 490 feet across and can store up to 520 acre-feet of water in the reservoir managed by the Carlsbad Municipal Water District.

Mount Calavera (Skull Hill) is what is left of one of North America's smallest volcanos and only one of three in Southern California. This extinct volcano erupted 15 to 22 million years ago. The outside of the volcano slowly eroded away over time and all that is left is the volcanic plug that clogged up the throat of the crater. After crossing the dam, we first tried to follow the marked trail on our phone that climbed right up the center of the eroding volcanic plug. We made it 2/3 of the way up, but there was a steep section that we probably could have climbed but I didn't trust the stability of the rock face. The rocks felt a little too loose so we climbed back down. Two guys tried climbing down from the top but they made the same decision at the tricky section right above our heads.

Circling around the back, we hiked up to the 513 foot peak of Mount Calavera. It was sunset so we had great views of the surrounding area. They have warning signs as you approach the steep edge of the cliff overlooking the small lake. In some places, there were sheer drops of over 100 feet.

It was a little scary as we walked along the entire edge of the crater. In one spot, the columnar joints are visible along the cliff face where the lava cooled and split into the distinctive six-side columns. With my telephoto lens, I took a nice photo of the tall stack of the Carlsbad Power Plant rising in the orange-colored sky along the coast.

Next time we want to come back and hike the 3.2 trail that circles the lake itself.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Birthday Dinner at Cowboy Star
(Plus a visit to the San Diego Central Library)

For my 48th birthday, Tori treated me this year to a Steak Dinner at Cowboy Star. Since we arrived Downtown about an hour early, we went for a walk over to the San Diego Central Library which opened back in 2013. We took the elevator up to the 9th floor to check out the dome made of metal scaffolding. At 143 feet, the diameter of the dome is larger than the one atop the U.S. Capitol Building.

I have been wanting to go to Cowboy Star for awhile now and we made reservations for the last weekend before they closed for most of January with major interior renovations. Personally, I thought the interior looked pretty good already with their western theme and exposed wooden beams. Their separate butcher shop was already under construction. I wish we had reserved spots at the counter, but our table was in a good spot with a nice view into the open kitchen.

We started with Spicy Margaritas and the delicious Parker House Rolls served in a tiny cast iron pan. We shared the Wedge Salad. Normally, I don't care for such a thick cut of bacon (I like it thin and crispy) but it tasted perfect. Since Tori doesn't eat bacon, I had her slice as well. For our main course, I wanted the 8oz. Filet Mignon and Tori had the King Crab and Black Truffle Risotto. My steak was cooked exactly how I liked it. So very tender! I didn't really need the additional Bearnaise Sauce I ordered since my filet was already flavored so well on it's own.

Normally we share a dessert, but we splurged and ordered the Sticky Toffee Cake as well as the Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding. The bread pudding with dark chocolate ice cream was delicious but the date cake covered with a maple toffee sauce was our favorite.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Christmas Lights - Encinitas Tree of Life

The Encinitas Tree of Life on Neptune Avenue.

I have been passing this beautifully lit tree on my evening walks after work.

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Torrey Pines Extension Hike at Sunset

The last time we hiked the Torrey Pines Extension, it was overcast and cold so we came back today at sunset. This separate area to the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is on the opposite side of Los Peñasquitos Lagoon. This extension was acquired in 1970, eleven years after the main Torrey Pines Reserve became a State Park, to preserve the threatened grove of pine trees on the north bluff. This 197 acre piece of land holds half of the 3,000 Torrey Pines in San Diego. Santa Rosa Island off the coast holds the remaining trees.

We headed up the sandy Mar Scenic Trail and then turned left to ascend the ridge up the DAR Trail which stands for Daughters of the American Revolution. We first headed South on the ridge dotted with the rare Torrey Pine to a viewpoint with benches overlooking the lagoon and ocean before back-tracking to the North side of the DAR Trail that led down into small forest of trees. Our total hike was only 1.5 miles out and back but we saw some awesome views and the setting sun painted the chaparral-covered hillside a rosy glow.

Next time we come back, we will hike the Margaret Fleming Nature Trail to the east side of the small valley and circle the Red Ridge Trail along the top of the plateau. In total, there is 4.3 miles of trails crisscrossing this reserve. The trails do not connect to the beach like in the main reserve, but there is free parking.

Update: 1/1/2020

We returned on New Year's Day to hike up to the Red Ridge Trail via the Margaret Fleming Nature Trail.

On our walk back, we encountered two locals who live near the trail who gave us a tour and told us about the history of the surrounding sights.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Weekend Getaway (Biking Ocean Beach and Mission Beach)

Tori and I took a short weekend getaway and stayed at The Dana on Mission Bay. The resort hotel is a short distance between Ocean Beach and Mission Beach so we took our bikes with us to ride around and explore the two beach communities on either side of Mission Bay.

After parking at the hotel at 11am, we biked over the San Diego River into Ocean Beach and had lunch at OB Surf Lodge across the street from the beach. Heading south on our bikes, we followed Sunset Cliffs Boulevard all the way to the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park at the far end. The overcast sky began to turn burn off as we explored the dramatic cliff face for the first time. It was low tide but the natural arch entrance to the cave was still blocked by waves as we circled around the large hole in the ground.

We rode back to the hotel to check-in and relax for a bit. After chips and guacamole with margaritas by the hotel pool, we rode back into Ocean Beach to watch the sunset from the Ocean Beach Pier. Afterwards, we went to dinner at Bo-beau Kitchen. Since it was Restaurant Week in San Diego, we ordered their special 3-course dinner. Tori loved the Mushroom Ravioli as her starter and I thought the Boeuf Bourguignonne was delicious as my entree. I requested extra bread to sop up the remaining sauce. We both ordered the Flourless Chocolate Cake for dessert which was very tasty.

The clouds returned on Saturday morning. After the hotel's breakfast buffet, we checked-out and rode into Mission Beach, except that we went the wrong way and ended up on the long jetty between the San Diego River and the Mission Bay Entrance Channel. After our interesting detour, we back-tracked over the correct bridge and rode into Mission Bay and walked out on the South Mission Beach Jetty to check out the Graffiti Shack sitting on the rocks. The abandoned structure used to be the electrical box for the fog light at the end of the Jetty.

Leaving the rocky jetty behind, we slowly cruised up the boardwalk until we reached Pacific Beach and stopped for drinks to people watch. We rode all the way to Palisades Park at the north end of Pacific Beach. After snacking on some fries at Biggie's Burgers to get out of the light rain, we headed back to our car and headed to Aerial Revolutions for the Saturday AcroJam.

p.s. - I had quite the experience with a crazy homeless man in a Mission Bay park bathroom. He was talking to himself as I walked past him to the urinal. As I was peeing, he started shouting and banging his stick against the walls and bathroom sinks. I kept my eye on him as I finished up and he brandished his stick and yelled at me for looking at him. I had to walk out backwards because I didn't want to get hit in the back of the head.